Around 1,000 tethered and freely roaming horses throughout South Wales may soon have to wear identification collars.

“Many horses are living with the community in the middle of council estates and there have been a number of road accidents,” said Steve Grey of Cardiff Trading Standards.

He has led a two-year audit of ponies living on verges, in council estates and on hillsides, across eight local authorities in South Wales.

The results will be submitted to the Welsh Assembly government in March.

Mr Grey hopes politicians will impose new controls on the animals.

“There is an identification issue. There is low take-up of passports and it would be better for horses on common land to wear collars,” he said.

The audit forms part of the Welsh government’s Companion Animal Welfare Enhancement Scheme (CAWES) that hopes to improve welfare and help develop strategies to cope with disease.

Officials are concerned that some horses are being abandoned, others neglected and keepers are failing to comply with welfare and horse passport rules.

An Assembly spokesman said data from the audit is currently being assessed by a vet team at Bristol University.

“Local authorities noted several years ago that loose horses were an issue. This has enabled further research and we will be interested to see the results,” he said.

Checks were also made on horses tethered on common land amid fears that this practice may compromise welfare and affect behaviour.

RSPCA inspectors in Wales are often called out to deal with incidents involving roaming equines, said a spokesman.

“Proving ownership of ponies on common land is very difficult. Owners often deny responsibility, making it a problem to bring prosecutions against those who have caused their animals to suffer,” she said.

The Welsh government has published new data on numbers of horse enterprises operating in the Principality.

The data shows horse businesses are increasingly important to the Welsh economy, with the number of horse dealers and livery stables across Wales growing.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (6 January ’11)